Posted by lebeau
Matthew Broderick is a triple threat. He has been a star of stage and
screen. His filmography includes iconic roles like Ferris Bueller and
the voice of the Lion King. He’s even fought Godzilla. But these
days, you are far more likely to see the former Ferris Bueller on
Broadway than starring in a hit movie. The former A-lister’s film
career is still active, but it has definitely cooled.
What the hell happened?
Broderick started his acting career in theater. He was noticed by a
New York Times theater critic in an Off Broadway production of Torch
Song Trilogy which led to roles on Broadway.
miller billoxi blues
Broderick starred as Eugene Morris Jerome in two plays written by Neil
Simon. Brighton Beach Memoirs and Biloxi Blues were the first two-
thirds of Simon’s Eugene trilogy. The third play, Broadway Bound,
starred Jonathan Silverman who would go on to play Eugene in the film
version of Brighton Beach Memoirs.
The three plays were semi-autobiographical accounts of Simon’s life.
The successful plays lead to Broderick getting offers for film and TV
roles. Originally, Broderick was offered the role of Alex P. Keaton
on Family Ties. But he backed out when he realized bigger offers were
on the horizon.
broderick - max dugan
Brighton Beach Memoirs also lead to Broderick being cast in his first
film role, Max Dugan Returns, which was also written and produced by
Neil Simon. Max Dugan was released in 1983 and starred Marsha Mason,
Jason Robards and Donald Sutherland. Sutherland’s son, Kiefer, also
appeared in a small role.
The film was not a hit at the box office, but it was a start.
broderick war games
Later that year, Broderick co-starred opposite Ally Sheedy and Dabney
Coleman in the Cold War thriller, War Games.
Beverly Hills Cop director, Martin Brest, was originally hired to
direct War Games. But the producers found his take on the material to
be too dark. Brest was fired and replaced by Saturday Night Fever
director, Jon Badham.
Badham has said that Broderick and Sheedy were “stiff as boards” when
he arrived at the set. They were concerned about being fired along
with Brest. So, Badham tried to put his young actors at ease in order
to give the film a lighter tone. He wanted to make it seem like the
characters were having fun in spite of the film’s serious undertones.
War Games received very positive reviews and was the 5th highest
grossing film of 1983.
1983 was an incredible year for Broderick. He starred in a hit summer
movie and he became the youngest actor to win a Tony Award for Best
Featured Actor in a Play for Brighton Beach Memoirs.
broderick - ladyhawke
In 1985, Broderick co-starred opposite Michelle Pfeiffer and Rutger
Hauer in Richard Donner’s fantasy film, Ladyhawke.
Broderick played a thief called The Mouse who helps a couple of star-
crossed lovers. The couple (played by Hauer and Pfeiffer) were
cursed. During the day, Pfeiffer’s character is transformed into a
hawk. At night, Hauer is transformed into a wolf. With the help of
The Mouse, they attempt to free themselves of the curse.
Ladyhawke received mixed to positive reviews. But it was not a hit at
the box office.
Later that year, Broderick appeared in his second Neil Simon
production on Broadway, Biloxi Blues, which co-starred Penelope Ann
Miller. 1985 wasn’t quite the grand slam year Broderick had in 1983.
But he was still starring in big budget movies and Broadway shows.
broderick - bueller
In 1986, Broderick starred in John Hughes’ teen comedy, Ferris
Bueller’s Day Off. It is the role that would define his film career.
Ferris Bueller is a teenage fantasy about a charming boy who gets away
with goofing off through the sheer magnitude of his charisma. The
movie follows Ferris and his friends as they skip school and go on a
series of adventures around Chicago.
Hughes wrote Ferris with Broderick in mind. “Certain guys would have
played Ferris and you would have thought, ‘Where’s my wallet?’” Hughes
said. “I had to have that look; that charm had to come through.”
Ferris Bueller’s Day Off got positive reviews and was a hit at the box
office. But more importantly, it became a cultural touchstone of the
decade. At a 2010 Oscar tribute to Hughes, Broderick talked about
the film’s lasting impact:
“For the past 25 years, nearly every day someone comes up to me,
taps me on the shoulder and says, ‘Hey, Ferris, is this your day
Broderick was nominated for a Golden Globe for the role. A sequel and
a remake have both been discussed but have yet to materialize.
Broderick starred in a Super Bowl commercial in 2012 which showed him
enjoying a Ferris-like day off.
In 1990, the film was adapted into a short-lived TV show starring
Charlie Schlatter as Ferris and Jennifer Aniston as his sister. The
pilot episode included a bizarre scene in which Schlatter as Ferris
acknowledges the movie and cuts up a cardboard cutout of Broderick as
he explains why he hated Broderick’s performance. The show was
cancelled after one season.
In 1987, while vacationing with Bueller co-star and secret girlfriend
Jennifer Grey in Ireland, Broderick had a bad car accident. Broderick
crossed over into the wrong lane instantly killing a local mother and
her daughter. Broderick suffered a fractured leg, fractured ribs, a
concussion, and a collapsed lung. Broderick faced the potential of
prison time for the accident, but ended up paying only $175 in fines
for careless driving.
In 1987, Broderick starred opposite Helen Hunt and a chimp in Project
Broderick played an airforce pilot who was assigned to work with a
chimp on a top-secret project. Eventually Hunt and Broderick team up
to save the chimp from cruel experimentations. Ironically, the film’s
producers were accused of animal cruelty during filming.
Project X got mixed reviews and disappointed at the box office.
broderick - biloxi
In 1988, Broderick appeared in film adaptations of two of his early
plays. The first was Mike Nichol’s take on Biloxi Blues.
Broderick co-starred opposite Christopher Walken and Penelope Ann
Miller who reprised her role from the play. Reviews were mixed to
positive. But far from enthusiastic. It was a solid hit at the box
Later that year, Broderick starred opposite Harvey Fierstein and Anne
Bancroft in the big screen version of Torch Song Trilogy.
Fierstein plays a female impersonator and Broderick plays his lover.
Both reprised their roles from the Off Broadway play. Originally,
Broderick passed on the movie as he was recuperating from his car
accident in Ireland. Tate Donovan was cast. But two days into
rehearsals, Broderick changed his mind and Donovan was fired.
Torch Song Trilogy got mixed reviews and was not a hit at the box
broderick - family business
In 1989, Broderick starred opposite screen legends, Sean Connery and
Dustin Hoffman in Sidney Lumet’s Family Business.
Connery, Hoffman and Broderick played three generations of the same
family despite looking nothing alike. They embark on a caper to steal
a million dollars.
Family Business got terrible reviews and bombed at the box office.
But I think it shows that Broderick (in spite of a spotty track record
at the box office) was regarded as one of the leading movie actors of
his generation at the time.
broderick - glory
At the same time, Broderick appeared in Edward Zwick’s Civil War
drama, Glory. The film went into limited release the same week as
Family Business but didn’t receive a wide release until 1990.
Glory told the story of the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, the
first all-black regiment of the Union. Broderick and Cary Elwes
played the leaders of the regiment. Denzel Washington and Morgan
Freeman who were relative unknowns at the time, played soldiers.
Glory received positive reviews, but critics were split on Broderick’s
performance. Many thought the boyish Broderick was miscast as the
military leader. But others saw his performance as a step towards
more mature roles.
Denzel Washington won Best Actor for Glory which was a hit at the box
In 1990, Broderick co-starred opposite another screen legend. This
time, it was Marlon Brando in Andrew Bergman’s Godfather spoof, The
Broderick plays a film school student who is drawn into a real-life
world of crime. The film also featured Bruno Kirby and Broderick’s
Biloxi Blues co-star, Penelope Ann Miller.
Brando actually called the film “lousy” when it finished shooting.
But it got great reviews and was a modest hit. Brando may be a
legendary actor, but he was a lousy film critic.
broderick - out on a limb
In 1992, Broderick reunited with Bueller co-star Jeffrey Jones for the
farce, Out on a Limb.
The plot really defies explanation. In a reversal of his Bueller
image, Broderick plays a guy who is definitely not in control. This
time, it is Broderick who is tormented by Jones who plays an evil twin
brother. John C. Reilly also appears.
Out on a Limb got terrible reviews and bombed at the box office. And
yet, Broderick would play similar roles for most of his movie career
as an adult.
broderick - night we never met
In 1993, Broderick grew a beard and starred opposite Annabella Sciorra
in the romance, The Night We Never Met.
Broderick plays an uptight chef who rents an apartment on certain
nights to get away from his roommates. The apartment is occupied on
other nights by the yuppie owner and another tenant played by
Sciorra. Despite never having met, Broderick and Sciorra eventually
fall in love.
I think the beard tells you everything you need to know about this
one. Broderick was desperately trying to shed his youthful image and
be taken seriously as an actor.
Reviews for The Night We Never Met were mixed to negative. It was a
disappointment at the box office.
Broderick also appeared on TV in A Life in Theater for which he was
nominated for an Emmy.
broderick lion king
In 1994, Broderick leant his voice to the adult Simba in Disney’s The
Voicing a cartoon character didn’t have much of an impact on
Broderick’s career. But it is arguably his second most iconic film
broderick - mrs. parker
Later that year, Broderick appeared opposite Jennifer Jason Leigh in
Alan Rudolph’s Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle.
Leigh played writer Dorothy Parker and the film included an ensemble
cast of stars playing other famous writers from the period. Broderick
played Charles MacArthur. The film also featured a young Heather
Despite the lofty pedigree (Mrs. Parker was produced by Robert Altman)
the film got mixed reviews and bombed at the box office.
broderick - road to wellville
Later that year, Broderick appeared in another ensemble in Alan
Parker’s The Road to Wellville.
Wellville starred Anthony Hopkins as John Harvey Kellogg, inventor of
corn flakes and founder of the Battle Creek Sanitarium. Broderick and
Bridget Fonda played a husband and wife couple who came to the
Sanitarium for its unconventional treatment.
The film is intended to be a comedy with the humor supplied by
Hopkins’ bizarre treatments. But nothing in the movie is remotely
funny in spite of a talented cast that also includes John Cusak and
It got bad reviews and bombed at the box office.
broderick - the cable guy
In 1996, Broderick returned to mainstream movies in the dark comedy,
The Cable Guy which starred Jim Carrey and was directed by Ben
At the time, The Cable Guy made headlines for Carrey’s then-unheard-of
20-million dollar paycheck. Carrey was on a string of box office hits
based on his goofy physical comedy.
Broderick played a guy whose life is turned upside down by a crazed
cable installer played by Carrey. The Cable Guy was a departure from
Carrey’s usual brand of comedy. Audiences didn’t know what to make of
its dark twists especially the film’s black-hearted ending.
Reviews were mixed, but critics were not kind to Jim Carrey movies at
the time. The movie was a hit, but fell short of expectations given
Carrey’s track record and salary.
Broderick also produced, directed and starred in the film, Infinity,
which was written by his mother. Broderick played physicist Richard
Feynman whose books were the basis for the screenplay. Patricia
Arquette played his wife.
broderick addicted to love
In 1997, Broderick co-starred with the Queen of the Rom-Com, Meg Ryan,
in Addicted to Love.
Both Broderick and Ryan were trying to subvert their squeaky-clean
images. Notice the return of Broderick’s “adult” beard? The movie
casts them as a couple who falls in love while stalking their
Ryan’s usual romantic comedy fans rejected the dark subject matter.
Additiced to Love got mixed to negative reviews and bombed at the box
broderick - godzilla
In 1998, Broderick starred in Roland Emmerich’s big budget Hollywood
version of the Japanese monster classic, Godzilla.
Godzilla was the sure-fire hit of the summer. The studio had been
promoting the movie for a year. The slogan, “Size matters” was
everywhere as were the Taco Bell tie-ins. I still don’t know what a
Japanese monster has to do with Mexican fast-food.
Unfortunately, the Godzilla remake got everything wrong. Emmerich
decided early on to update the classic monster which was the selling
point of the movie. Godzilla fans across the world were offended by
Worse still, the movie was dumb and incredibly bloated. Instead of
focusing on a giant lizard smashing New York (which is what audiences
paid to see) the movie spends much of its two-hour-plus running time
on the troubled love life of Broderick’s character.
Critics savaged Godzilla which isn’t surprising since Emmerich went
out of his way to offend them with characters clearly intended as
comedic send-ups of Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel. Eventually, even
Emmerich himself admitted Godzilla was a mistake.
Despite the reviews, Godzilla had a huge opening weekend. It was a
box office hit. But not nearly as big of a hit as it was expected to
broderick - election
In 1999, Broderick starred opposite Reese Witherspoon in Alexander
Payne’s dark comedy, Election.
In Election, the former Ferris Bueller is cast as the loser high
school teacher who has to deal with an irritatingly peppy and
successful student played by Witherspoon. Broderick’s character can’t
stand the fact that Witherspoon’s Tracy Flick will inevitably win an
election for school president so he sets about rigging the vote.
Election got positive reviews and was a modest hit at the box office.
It has since developed a cult following.
broderick - inspector gadget
Later that year, Broderick made another attempt at summer movie
success with the big budget adaptation of the kid’s cartoon, Inspector
Like Godzilla, Inspector Gadget was a big, bloated mess of special
effects. The film got bad reviews but was modestly successful at the
box office. Eventually, disney released a direct-to-DVD sequel
broderick - you can count on me
In 2000, Broderick appeared opposite Laura Linney in Kenneth
Lonergan’s drama, You Can Count on Me.
Linney played a single mother who has to deal with an irresponsible
sibling played by Mark Ruffalo. Broderick played Linney’s new boss
who is hard on her until they start up an affair.
You Can Count on Me got great reviews and was a modest hit at the box
broderick - producers on Broadway
In 2001, Broderick retreated back to the stage for the Broadway
version of Mel Brook’s 1968 comedy, The Producers.
In the original film, Gene Wilder played an anxious accountant who
gets drawn into a scheme by a failed producer played by Zero Mostel.
They realize they can make more money bilking their investors if they
produce a flop than they could with a hit. So they set out to produce
a play that can’t succeed.
In the Broadway show, Broderick played the accountant, Leo Bloom. His
Lion King co-star, Nathan Lane, played the producer, Max Bialystock.
The play opened to rave reviews and was a huge hit. Broderick and
Lane were nominated for Tony Awards against each other. Lane won the
broderick - stepford wives
Having tasted success again on Broadway, Broderick returned to the big
screen opposite Nicole Kidman in Frank Oz’s comedic remake of The
The Stepford Wives was a notoriously troubled production. Broderick
stepped in after John Cusack left the picture. Oz feuded with several
members of the cast including Christopher Walken and Bette Middler
(who stepped in for Joan Cusack when she quit).
The original Stepford Wives had satirical elements, but was not played
for laughs. It told the tale of a town in which the men replaced
their wives with robots who made perfect housekeepers. It was creepy.
The remake couldn’t decide on a tone. Massive changes were made after
filming was complete which resulted in some gaping plot holes. The
film can’t even keep clear whether or not the wives have actually been
replaced by robots.
The remake was a disaster in just about every way imaginable.
broderick - producers movie
In 2005, Broderick and Lane reprised their roles for the film
adaptation of their Broadway hit, The Producers.
The play was based on the film and making the 2005 film an adaptation
of a play which was an adaptation of a 1968 film. Umma Thurman and
Will Ferrell joined the cast for the movie.
The movie failed to recapture the success of the play. Reviews were
mixed. The movie disappointed at the box office.
If you are going to see a film version of The Producers, stick with
the original. You can’t beat Gene Wilder.
broderick - deck the halls
In 2006, Broderick co-starred with Danny DeVito in the Christmas
comedy, Deck the Halls.
Broderick and DeVito play neighbors who feud over Christmas
decorations. Or something. Reviews were terrible. There is no way
I’m subjecting myself to this holiday turd.
Deck the Halls flopped at the box office.
Since then, Broderick has worked steadily on stage and screen. He
continues to appear in Broadway shows like 2005′s The Odd Couple and
2012′s Nice Work If You Can Get It. His screen roles tend to be on TV
more often than not including guest appearances on Louis, 30 Rock and
broderick - tower heist
In 2011, Broderick returned to the big screen in Brett Ratner’s crime
comedy, Tower Heist.
Tower Heist starred Ben Stiller and Eddie Murphy and co-starred
Broderick, Casey Affleck; Alan Alda and Tea Leoni. It looked like a
can’t miss hit on paper and many expected it to rejuvenate Murphy’s
But that didn’t happen. In spite of great tracking numbers and decent
reviews, audiences failed to turn out for Tower Heist. In spite of a
great cast, the movie feels extremely lazy. As our own Daffystardust
opined, “Pretty much everybody in Tower Heist except Casey Affleck was
looking noticeably old.”
So, what the hell happened?
I have to start out by noting that by any reasonable measure,
Broderick is still outrageously successful. He is a leading man on
Broadway and married to Sex in the City star, Sarah Jessica Parker.
While he may not be on the Hollywood A-list, he does still get work in
TV and movies.
But why wasn’t Broderick’s film career more successful?
It’s tempting to say that Broderick was type-cast as Ferris Bueller.
For much of his career, Broderick had a youthful look that made it
difficult to transition into more mature roles.
But, Broderick had more than his share of big budget movies to try to
reinvent his image. The problem is, most of them were terrible. He
continually popped up in crap like Godzilla, Inspector Gadget and The
Also, Broderick was rarely the star of these movies even when he had
the leading role. He was frequently cast as the thankless straight
man to Jim Carrey or even Danny DeVito.
Broderick’s filmography is filled with movies that were expected to be
big hits but weren’t. Or if they were, they fell short of
expectations. The only two movies he made that were legitimate hits
with critics and audiences were War Games and Ferris Bueller’s Day